Seizing The Growth Opportunity In Non-Dairy Beverages

Monday, June 4th, 2018

The rising acceptance and preference for plant-based beverages is a global consumer trend which is becoming more established in many parts of Asia, says Ashish Dahiya, cluster marketing, portfolio, & category management leader, Tetra Pak Processing Systems, South Asia, East Asia & Oceania.


Consumers today are increasingly demanding, and many key factors must be included in their product of choice: health benefits and good taste, luxury and good price, convenience and high quality. Catering for just one benefit or added-value is no longer enough. In addition, products should match consumers’ own personalities and reflect how they like to be perceived.

Whilst these changes have posed challenges to the existing beverage categories, they have also brought exciting opportunities to the market. One clear trend is the consumption of non-dairy alternatives, which can be attributed mainly to increased occurrence of lactose intolerance, a shift towards plant-based food, as well as a growing demand for more innovative dairy-free applications.

These plant-based beverages are healthy alternatives to dairy milk for consumers with cow’s milk intolerance. The growing variety of grains, nuts and seeds in non-dairy milk alternatives provide a natural source of flavour and health benefits.

The growth in demand for non-dairy alternatives reflects the global megatrend of investing in health, convenience and safety. Consumers want easy living and, to that end, are inclined to purchase beverage products that not only support easy and fuss-free living, but ultimately support their need to achieve a healthy balance in food and beverage consumption.

In South Asia, East Asia and Oceania, plant-based beverages make up a particularly promising category because of traditional acceptance of soy in the ASEAN and North Asia region. For example, between 2014 and 2017, the compound annual growth rates of rice, nuts, grains and soy beverages in Japan, Australia and Vietnam increased more than five percent. The rising acceptance and in some cases, preference, for plant-based beverages is a global consumer trend which is becoming more established in many parts of Asia.


A Wide Variety Of Non-Dairy Alternative Beverages

Non-dairy milk alternatives or plant-based beverages is an exciting product group that involves almost endless possibilities for new formulations and combinations. These include:

  • Soy milk and soy-based beverages
  • Coconut water
  • Rice drinks
  • Oat drinks
  • Nut drinks, including peanuts and almonds
  • Plant seed drinks, including barley

The raw materials for plant-based beverages represent a wide spectrum of characteristics. There are not only hundreds of different ingredients and thousands of different combinations of raw materials that are used, one must also take into account the variations depending on the season, growing conditions, where the crop is grown and so on.


Success in the area of non-dairy alternatives requires beverage producers to understand consumer needs, and focus on customisation, innovation and speed-to-market to increase the probability of their success. This is where Tetra Pak, the a food processing and packaging solutions company, plays the vital role in supporting the players in the industry. The dedicated processing of raw materials is one factor for success.


Processing Non-Dairy Alternative Beverages

The wide variety of non-dairy alternatives (plant-based drinks), raw materials, and ingredients enable manufacturers to differentiate themselves from the competition with thousands of variations of formulas. However, plant-based materials can pose multiple challenges in producing high-quality products with long shelf-life. Here are our top three tips to overcome common challenges in nut beverage processing:

  • Consider proper grinding of nuts or using nut paste for a smoother mouthfeel

Nuts or grains with large particle sizes cause so-called “chalkiness”—a dry, grainy sensation in the mouth. To improve mouthfeel and release nutrients such as protein, oil and starch, grinding or using a smooth raw material such as nut paste is important to break down the particle cells.

Preventing oil oxidation and foaming is another delicate process to keep in mind. Over 80 percent of fatty acids in nuts are unsaturated fatty acids, which are highly sensitive to oxygen (oxidation). Oil oxidation of these unsaturated fatty acids occurs frequently and creates a fishy odour, and is, therefore, one of the most fundamental challenges in nut beverage processing.

Additionally, some of the nut slurries such as almond are susceptible to foaming. Therefore, vacuum mixing is preferred for high-quality nut beverages.

  • Use a high shear mixer for good dispersion of emulsifiers and stabilisers

Nuts, once ground, do not contain as much natural emulsifiers found in milk—thus, the addition of emulsifiers such as sunflower or soya lecithin is needed. It is important that the powders are mixed well to maximise the function of such emulsifiers. As mixing or blending in a tank with an agitator only primarily disperses the oil and powders, it is recommended to use high shear mixing to achieve an instant and full dispersion of oil and powders.

  • Homogenise oat and nut-based beverages for longer shelf-life

With oat- and nut-based beverages, it is often desirable to resemble bovine milk in flavour and mouth feel. To achieve a desired fat content, manufacturers might add 1.5 percent rapeseed oil to the beverage, essentially making the product into an emulsion between fat and water.

If these beverages were left to stand, the fat globules would form a cream layer and rise to the surface. This natural separation of fat globules and liquid causes consumers to perceive that the beverage has gone bad. To counter this process, homogenisation is used to reduce the size of the fat globules. The net result of this process is a decreased creaming rate, reduced clustering during creaming, and thus, a longer shelf-life of beverages.


Staying Ahead With Integrated Processing And Packaging Solutions

Whilst it remains a necessity for the food and beverage producers to provide consumers with a healthy indulgence that meets their nutritional needs, an innovative packaging solution is another tool for success. Consumers have elevated expectations for brands and expect nothing less than the full package when it comes to beverage choices—from product safety and quality to the package functionality.

Tetra Pak, which invests in technology development in food processing and packaging, has been working closely with more than 300 clients in South Asia, East Asia and Oceania. Some of the products in non-dairy alternatives that have been launched were received very well in the markets: for example, Almond Breeze and Vitasoy form Australia, V-Fit and 137 Degrees from Thailand, as well as Glico from Japan.

Our dedicated team of experts with end-to-end processing and packaging insights work closely with food and beverage producers through a collaborative journey, tailored to our client’s individual needs or challenges. This approach allows each client to select what’s most relevant to their needs, either working through the entire process or focusing on select elements. Ultimately, our end-to-end solutions enable our customers to retain and improve their product quality with assured food safety, and at the same time, optimise operational performance to deliver innovative products with speed-to-market in order to stay ahead in today’s highly competitive market.


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